Wartime memories of Farnborough Kent children


In March 2018, just two months after this website was launched,  I was sent an email by John Riches - of whom I was unaware before.

John had written a book about thirteen years previously called 'The Alley Kids Remember' about his experiences growing up in Farnborough during the second world war.

As the book was now out of print, with no prospect of there being any further copies produced, John very generously offered me the opportunity to publish the contents of the book online.
John Riches

Naturally my attention was alerted, and within a short time John had sent to me all of the content of the book, with a free reign to do with it what I pleased. 

So this part of the website is a reproduction of the text and most of the photographs from the original book. Some further content and photos have been added to better set the experiences described into a modern context.

Nick Reynolds


Our alley, now called Pleasant View Place, is a narrow pathway that leads from the High Street in Farnborough, up past three terraces of small cottages and an Ex-service man’s Club into most wonderful, wooded North Downs countryside that stretches virtually unbroken to the south coast of England. Today it is in the London Borough of Bromley, but back in the dark days of World War Two it was proud to be in the County of Kent.  

Between 1939 and 1945, our pleasant view was overshadowed by the tall chimney of The Limes Laundry and the huge, ugly advertising hoardings that lined the High Street near by. The names of the Alley Kids who lived in the cottages and neighbouring roads remain fixed in the memory even over sixty years after the events described in these pages. Amazingly many of us are still in contact with each other and meet regularly.

The photos above show the row of cottages in Pleasant View Place today, and the view of the Downs from the far end of the lane.
These photos show views from the High Street. The photo on the left  c.1937, shows a gas street light and number 36 High Street, the home of farm workers Jimmy and Mary Still, photo provided by Charls Hodson.  The photo on the right shows the location today from further up Pleasant View Place.. No. 36 has gone and been replaced by a modern bungalow, (not in the photo) but the ones behind are still the same.

Aerial View today - Pleasant View Place is in the centre leading from the High Street.

The idea for this book began when it was realised that the names of civilians killed by enemy action are recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s web site – including the names of the six Farnborough children and three parents who lost their lives. After an article I wrote about one of my class mates killed by a Doodlebug was published in the Farnborough Parish Magazine, many people made contact and suggested that we should record our wartime memories before it’s too late. Amazingly so many memories poured in that it has been impossible, for reasons of space, to include them all here. Please accept my apologies if all or some of your contribution has been omitted.  

We have simply set out to describe, from personal experience, how the events of the Second World War affected the children who lived in one small English community. Their sorrows and joys, their food and lifestyle – all so very different to that of the Twenty-first Century. It will provide interesting supplementary reading for Key Stage Two (Juniors to we Oldies.) children studying this fascinating period of history at school as part of the National Curriculum.  

Some of the Alley Kids received an invitation to attend, on 22nd April 2004, the 100th Birthday Party of the teacher who taught many of them the year the war ended. She was presented with a copy of some of these memories. Sadly she died on 19th October 2004 and some of us had the privilege of attending her funeral.   This booklet is dedicated to the memory of a wonderful teacher and person: Mrs Gladys Moat.    

John Riches, January 2005.

See also advertisement for the book 'The Alley Kids Remember'


Thanks are due to the many Farnborough School friends and others who provided information so that this booklet could be written. Their names are recorded at the end of this booklet.

In addition to information remembered, the following sources have been extensively drawn upon in an attempt to provide historical accuracy: -  

1   Farnborough Board Schools – 1973 . A Short History by Alan Robinson.
2   Susan Briggs. “Keep Smiling Through.” The Home Front 1939 – 45
3   Harry Edwards. “Skip’s Diary – The Village and the Lads.” An anecdotal account of Farnborough Village Life & 1st Farnborough Scouts from AD 1911.
4   Website of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
5   Sarah Martin: Research Assistant - Photographic Archive - Imperial War Museum.
6   The Internet.            

This booklet is intended to be a first draft of the memories of children who lived in and around Farnborough, Kent during the dark days of the Second World War. It is hoped that others will write their reminiscences for a possible second edition. As during the war photographic film was not generally available to the civilian population for security reasons, photographs of wartime Farnborough and its people are scarce. If any reader has pictures from this era would they please contact me? Also please let me know if you think we’ve made mistakes.  

John Riches. November 2004.


Farnborough Village

Bombs on Farnborough

Despite being on the route into London, and its close proximity to Biggin Hill, Farnborough was not heavily bombed.  This website records known bomb locations 1940-41.

Bomb Sight Farnborough

Hi Gang! - Thank You!

Thanks are due to the following who helped with the production of this book:
Vera Brewer.
Terry Coates.
Donald Curd.
Ann Gibbs now Eddleston.
Sue Ellis.
Clive Harding.
Sylvia Hodson.
Pam Ife now Roberts.
Edwin “Jim” Jamieson.
Gordon Johnson.
Rita & Ralph King.
Mike Lowe.
Tania Lowe.
Jocelyn Palmer now Russell.
Rose Norman now Pamplin.
Sharon & Terry Pritchard.
Carol Pucknell now Jamieson.
David Pucknell.
John Pucknell.
Peggy Pucknell now Bowen.
John Riches.
Alan Robinson.
Esme Symonds now Scoates.
Jessie & John Tinham.
Christine Williams now Harding.
Pat Williams now Chivrall.
Graham Wood FRS.
Shirley Woods now Anne Thorpe.

John Riches


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